The Tampa Bay Lightning held onto their slim Southeast Division lead by picking up two points Saturday night, but coach Guy Boucher wasn't pleased with his team's effort.
A visit to New Jersey should give the Lightning a great opportunity to make amends.
The Lightning try to turn around their recent scoring struggles Sunday against the deplorable Devils, who have produced a total of 16 goals in losing 10 of their last 11.
Tampa Bay (25-12-5) is a perfect 14-0-0 this season when scoring at least four goals, but hasn't made anything easy on its defense or newly-acquired goaltender Dwayne Roloson lately. The Lightning have totaled six goals in four games this month.
They're 3-1-0 in that stretch, though, and bounced back from Wednesday's 8-1 loss at Pittsburgh by coming from behind in the third period Saturday to win 2-1 at Ottawa. Boucher, perhaps with the seven-goal loss still fresh in his mind, wasn't exactly thrilled even though his team maintained its one-point lead over Washington.
"Some will say we won that one," Boucher said. "We did bounce back, but I want a lot more than that.
"We usually come out with a lot more desire than that. We need to be better."
That's certainly true of Steven Stamkos. The NHL's second-leading scorer with 31 goals and 57 points, Stamkos has only one assist in his last four games -- on Martin St. Louis' game-winner against the Senators.
"We have standards on our team and he wants the best from us in every game," Stamkos said of Boucher. "At the end of the day it's a win for us, but we just need to start better, have that focus from the start of the game and that's what Guy said to us pretty loudly."
The Lightning have allowed an NHL-high 46 goals in the first period, but New Jersey (10-29-2) hardly seems like a candidate to take advantage of that weakness. The Devils have scored a league-worst 23 times in the opening 20 minutes.
One day after trading captain Jamie Langenbrunner to Dallas, New Jersey was punchless again Saturday against Philadelphia. The Flyers scored twice in the first 15 minutes, and that was all they needed to beat the Devils 2-1 and keep New Jersey winless on the road since Nov. 3.
Langenbrunner is unlikely to be the only veteran dealt prior to the Feb. 28 trade deadline. The Devils have hit the midway point of the season with 22 points -- the second-lowest 41-game total in team history.
The 1983-84 team had 20 points at this juncture en route to a record-low 41.
"I'm as shocked as anybody," goaltender Martin Brodeur said. "When you look at what we brought to the lineup on paper, nobody expected it. Now, it's hit home it's going be a battle for us the rest of the season."
Brodeur hasn't started since Dec. 29, only coming in to relieve Johan Hedberg on Jan. 1 and again Saturday in the first period. He stopped all 19 shots over the final two-and-a-half periods and will start Sunday.
Brodeur is 6-1-0 with a 1.93 goals-against average in his last seven starts against the Lightning.
This matchup opens the season series. The Devils went 3-1-0 versus Tampa Bay in 2009-10, but had trouble containing Stamkos. The former No. 1 overall draft pick had five goals and two assists in the four games.
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